Sunnyslope High School (24-4) has been on a tear all season, and while they were never a big name in the minds of Arizona basketball enthusiasts, this team has been destined for something big all season. After big wins this high school season over such programs as Gilbert, Brophy Prep, Mountain Pointe, Desert Mountain, Mountain Ridge and Chandler, just to name a few, Sunnyslope has been my favorite all season to do something big in the Division-I state playoffs.
On Wednesday evening, in the final game of the day's string of Division-I playoff games at Wells Fargo Arena, Sunnyslope HS would shock the state and especially Corona Del Sol's players, coaches and fans, as they would end Corona's streak of consecutive state championships. Corona came into Wednesday evening's contest as winners of the last four-straight state championships in the Division-I Class in Arizona. Over the course of the last 4 seasons, Corona had gone almost undefeated in the state of Arizona for four-straight seasons, as the Aztecs have had much more raw talent on their team than all other teams in the state.
For this year's Corona team, it looked to be the same again this high school season, until superstar 6-foot-11 sophomore post Marvin Bagley Jr. transferred schools before the high school season, and again on Wednesday evening when star 6-foot-2 junior guard Saben Lee also sat on the sidelines during the big playoff contest. Lee had been disagnosed with the flu, and was not allowed to play in the game after missing the school on the day. With Lee in street clothes, the Aztecs would rely heavily on the play of 6-foot-1 junior guard Alex Barcello and 6-foot-3 senior guard Terrell Henderson (Portland State signee) to hold off a surging Sunnyslope group that has been playing with superior confidence this year - making for a very big potential upset.
Barcello would come out firing in the game, looking as if he knew it would take a big scoring night from him to lift the Aztecs to victory. After a driving basket by Barcello with 2:06 left to play in the first period, Corona would take a 10-9 lead in the first. But after a driving layup from Sunnyslope's sophomore guard Bryson "Pee-Wee" Mewhinney, and a three-pointer from 6-foot-2 senior guard Hank Hibbeler (pictured, left), and Sunnyslope would take a 14-10 lead after the first quarter.
Corona would come back in the second period. After a driving basket by senior guard Dane Maggi (pictured, right) would give Sunnyslope an 18-12 lead, Barcello would bring the Aztecs back - tieing the game at 20 all with 1 minute left to play in the first half, after a 3-point play from Barcello. Sunnyslope would take a 22 to 20 lead into halftime.
In the third period, a left-handed layup in traffic by "Pee-Wee," and a transition layup by sophomore post Chris Orozco would give the Vikings a 32-26 advantage with 2:25 left to play in the third. After a mid-range jumper from "Pee-Wee" in transition, and another mid-range jump-shot from Dane Maggi around a defender, and Sunnyslope would jump out to a 36-28 lead with 1:08 left in the third period. Then as the buzzer would sound, ending the third period, sophomore guard Terrence Gilder would make a long three-pointer to give Sunnyslope a 39-32 lead heading into the fourth period.
The fourth period would be very exciting, as Corona would scratch and claw to get back into the game - fearing the big upset in the making. Sunnyslope would increase their lead to 10-points, 48-38, after another mid-range jump-shot from sophomore guard Kyle Fischer. After a three-pointer from Barcello, which would bring Corona back to within 7-points of Sunnyslope, Dane Maggi would match Barcello with a three-pointer of his own - pushing the margin back to 10-points for the Vikings.
Barcello and Tyrell Henderson would try to keep Corona close down the stretch, but after Corona would get to within striking range of Sunnyslope late, Barcello would slip and fall on a drive towards the basket late - turning the ball over to Sunnyslope and eventually giving the Vikings the big upset, 61-53, over the defending state champs.
With the Corona players and fans walking off the court and out of the gymnasium in disbelief, Sunnyslope fans marvelled at what their young team had just done - not looking ahead, but instead meditating on what had just happened.
Sunnyslope will now face Gilbert High School on Friday evening in the Division-I state semi-finals at Grand Canyon University - looking to continue their terrific high school season. Sunnyslope defeated Gilbert earlier this high school season on the road, so this rematch will be something to watch.